As the country observes Reconciliation Day on Monday 16 December, many South Africans have taken to social media to share stories of patriotism.

Creators of the recently-established “#ImStaying” say social media can have a positive influence in shifting the narrative from political, cultural, racial and religious intolerance to unity.

The social media public group was published on Facebook in September. The movement’s overall goal is to create a social media tool where South Africans from different backgrounds and cultures are able to engage. In less than four months, it has become one of the most visible public groups.

Founder Jarred Petzer says they are hoping to give members a platform to voice their patriotism.

“The reason why the group was started was to start changing the narrative in South Africa because there was a heavy focus on politics. There was a heavy focus on all the staff that was going on in the country and we wanted to sort of start focusing on things in South Africa that we could aspire towards or be positive about. That was basically the gist of what got us going then the group started to take shape. It is amazing how people started submitting their stories and really started to transcend barriers.”

Since its inception, its membership has increased exponentially. Almost one million people across all racial groups, religious affiliations and cultures have joined the group. Petzer says most of them have shared their stories on the page.

“It gives us an opportunity to come together and unite people and explore our differences. That for me is the key here. We are able to explore our differences and really tap into different cultures and tap into different ways of thinking and understanding. I think, through that, there is a lot of reconciliation that happens because we start to understand each other from different perspectives.”

Petzer and other administrators of the page believe social media can play an important role in bridging historical gaps.

“Social media is an incredibly powerful tool depending on what your objectives are. Social media can either be a wonderful place to build and to encourage or it can be a platform that is being used historically just to push content.”

Many South Africans across racial and cultural divides have expressed their love for the country on other social media networks including Twitter. The “#ImStaying” group has, however, also received negative criticism from some users.

Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to deliver the keynote address commemorating 2019’s national Reconciliation Day at the Bergville Municipal Sports Complex, at the Okhahlamba Local Municipality, in KwaZulu-Natal.

#ImStaying Founder shares hope for South Africa on SABC3 Expresso Show: